Monday, April 4, 2005

Sin City

231 pages completed on the screenplay for The French Inquisitor.  I've written up through the 34 pages of extended treatment written by my co-writer.

After I sleep, I intend to use my day to polish what I have written.  we'll see how many pages I can clip from this screenplay.  Technically, I'm only half done.

                         *     *     *

A movie -- when it produces box office magic -- holds up a mirror:  "This is what you might do if you were dressed up and placed in a very different world."

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That was my experience with Sin City.

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I saw it yesterday after I returned to LA from San Diego.  I expected to be influenced by reviews I'd read in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

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My reactions to the film surprised me.

I came home, planning to write until early morning.  I couldn't.  Instead, I snacked.  Watched three episodes of The X Files.  Thought a lot about the movie.  Then finally gave up and went to bed.

                         *     *     *

A disturbing noir piece filmed in startling black and white (with designated splashes of color), Sin's roots are clearly found in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction

Primary director Robert Rodriguez hewed to three storiesfound in the graphic novels of Frank Miller.  Using a Pulp Fiction framework, he followed these stories, recreating what was drawn in the frames of the book.  Only with live people.

He used Frank Miller's dialogue and narration, reportedly.  Word for word.  The film clearly intended to mimic the experience of reading a graphic novel.  To do this, Rodriguez purposefully broke every classic rule of voiceover. 

                         *     *     *

Risky choices.  Did they work?  Have Rodriguez, Miller, and Tarantino together created a new genre of film?

Or is this a badly constructed film?

On first glance, the combination of narration and dialogue is laughable.  The voiceover shows little juxtaposition or irony.  Was that the point? Was the blinders-on narration intended to provoke an ironic detachment in the viewer? 

Whatever.  The film works.

                         *     *     *

The audience was edgy and tense.  Raw.  Aged mostly 20 - 35.  Mostly male.  They seemed ready to leap into the screen's world.  

                         *     *     *

Flashback to The Fast and the Furious.  North Canton.  2001.

Before the film, my friend and I realized we were the oldest couple in the theatre.  During the film, the audience screamed and whooped and became one with the action. 

After the film, we walked out to find a crowd that screamed and cheered on several hot cars in the parking lot.  Small trucks squealed and raced their oversized engines, spreading rubber, smoke, and exhaust fumes.

I'd never seen anything like it.

                         *     *     *

Present day.

The girls in the audience of Sin City were the minority.  Inevitably attached to boyfriends. 

I paused to watch one couple discreetly.  What bargain did they make?  Which ten  chick flicks would he have to see?

                         *     *     *

Moments in the film gave me chills:  I felt I was seeing something original and powerful.  The use of white blood -- except for designated touches of red and yellow -- made the unrelenting violence easier to absorb. 

Yet at other spots, I flinched.  Rodriguez, Miller, and Tarantino cranked up the violence -- men against men, women against men, men against women -- to an almost unbearable level.  Which, after you've seen Pulp Fiction, is saying something. 

In my head, I heard echoes of Tarantino's insane laugh as I watched the body disposal scene.

                         *     *     *

I'm inside the world of Sin City now.  The cityscapes and cars look dreamlike.  Night and winter prevail. 

Nature only echoes the violence humans do in this film.  

Nature doesn't seem to affect their ability to act.  Cars drive in the most impossible situations.  

Violence never actually kills anyone -- bullets, ropes, hack saws, knives, gun cartridges -- until the storyteller decides that it's the right time for the hero, villain, or victim to die.  There's no causal relationship between motivation, action, and result.  The film's a live version of the video game.  

Oddly enough, the ubiquitous cold have no effect on what the women wear.  They look perfectly warm in their skimpy, fetishistic outfits.

Only the passions in Sin City feel real.

                         *     *     *

Sin City.

A contemporary landscape of the American mind?

A raw, dangerous world where nothing is real except power, violence and fear? 

Where religion is only a political tool? 

Where those with true faith are vulnerable?

                         *     *     *

In The French Inquisitor, I'm not writing a story of medieval France.  Characters don't think like medieval Europeans. 

They're from today's world, dressed up in the clothes of medieval France ... and forced to make decisions under that society's rules.  They think like people today.

                         *     *     *

What would I do if I were Adrienne? 

A white witch living in medieval France.  Accused of witchcraft.  Standing before the Inquisition.  And being tried by a man you're in love with.

                         *     *     *

Today we pay people with Adrienne's skills a lot of money.  We make them heroes on our TV shows.  We call them scientists.  Lab technicians.  Doctors. 

Brave women like Adrienne in the middle ages explored the effects of herbs, roots, and healing techniques.  More sophisticated version of their spells -- psychic ability, hypnosis, medicines, formulas -- are legally used today by doctors, lawyers, and the police.

Funny what a few centuries can do.

Today, we use this same "white witchcraft" to keep people alive.  Evangelical and Catholic politicians argue that we need to use these skills to enhance a "Culture of Life."

In themiddle ages, the Church burned white witches atthe stake.  Thousands of them.  In the name of Christ.  They were so sure they were right.  In fact, last century, one of the popes made it official:  the doctrines of the Church are infallible, cannot be wrong. 

I suppose you could just write off that time period as an Era of Religious Extremism.  When people killed in the name of God.

I'm glad there's no chance that could happen today.

                         *     *     *

Ever experience this?

As you leave the theater after a good show, you look over your shoulder. 

And it hits you:  that was your world you saw.

Just in different clothes and a different time period.

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